First of all, please bear in mind these are generalizations, as some specimens of gym yogi are occasionally found in yoga studios, and vice versa.
At the gym, usually the esthetics and health are the main goals. The yoga practice tends to be considered a way to get fit and release stress. At yoga schools, is much beyond that, the goal is to experience the yogic state of mind, moksha in Sanskrit.
I’m not saying that yoga at schools will not result also in good health, alignment and nice body. The difference is, at schools all these benefits are secondary effects of a peaceful and healthy mind. I could say that yoga at schools tends to be more therapeutic and the focus is much more internal.
Moksha means emancipation or liberation, but liberation from what? Well, usually the word yoga comes always with that idea of transcendence of the ego. So we can say that Moksha is the liberation from the ego. I prefer the word emancipation because it seems to let clearly the idea of keeping the ego and go beyond that. Further.
At yoga schools, instead looking for health and nice shape, we practice asana and other technics as a self-investigation process. To see clearly our patterns and limitations then slowly transform them.
Self-transformation can be not so easy sometimes, because we love our own egos. We are so attached to ourselves that sometimes we have attachment even for our own limitations! Self-transformation is a very demanding process, that’s why count on an experienced teacher is so helpful. Teacher has been already a student. For sure he transcended some of his own limitations, so he knows exactly how you are feeling in that scary asana.
At yoga gyms, usually, you can have a different teacher each class. There is a basic practice to everyone, doesn’t matter age and special needs, while at schools, the idea is to stablish proximity with your teacher, then he (or she) can help you in your yoga journey. At the gym, with no closeness, your teacher doesn’t have time to study carefully your practice, neither enough information to personalize it for you. That’s the reason why is more tangible to experience yoga with a real teacher instead a DVD.
So, which practice is better, at the gym or at a yoga school? Both practices can bring to you many benefits, it depends on what you are looking for.
Maybe you are asking yourself, what’s the problem to intend health and nice shape? No problem, but yoga can offer you much more than that. Health and nice shape are changeable things. The self-comprehension and the equanimity you can achieve with yoga, helps you to deal peacefully with the changeable reality and with difficult situations. This inner peace is priceless and is what has been made yoga an experience so pursued through the millennia.
I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and I teach since 2001. I studied in India with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Living in Europe these last 10 years, I teach regularly in Croatia, France, Portugal and in Denmark, where I am currently living.
Besides Yoga, I am Bachelor in International Relations with specialization in Political Science at Sciences Po – Bordeaux.
I think my diverse education helps me to see yoga as lifestyle that can balance the individual and result in a healthy society.